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What is a Cancer Moonshot?

  • 10.26.2016
Cancer Moonshot


In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to reach for the moon — literally. His call to put Americans in space before the end of the decade resulted in an ambitious and unprecedented space program that led to American astronauts landing on the moon in July of 1969.

Once again, U.S. leaders are invoking the “moonshot” — challenging Americans to achieve the seemingly impossible in a short time frame. This time, the target is cancer.

Cancer Moonshot 2020 Program

During his State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, President Barack Obama announced the establishment of a Cancer Moonshot to accelerate cancer research, make more therapies available to more patients, and improve our ability to prevent, detect and cure cancer. He challenged the cancer community to imagine what could be possible in ten years’ time and then achieve those objectives in just five years. The initiative is led by Vice President Joe Biden who lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015.

The Cancer Moonshot initiative aims to accelerate and enhance our understanding of the cancer process, leading to better outcomes and cures in a five-year time frame.

Blue Ribbon Panel

To ensure that the Cancer Moonshot's goals and approaches are grounded in the best science, President Obama established a Blue Ribbon Panel of experts to assist the National Cancer Advisory Board.

This past September, the panel determined ten individual research recommendations to focus on in the coming five years. Many of these initiatives require the creation of a secure, web-based portal where data can be shared between the collaborating groups, including: patients, physicians, researchers, government agencies, NGO’s, insurers, and pharmaceutical companies. 

Cancer Moonshot Initiatives

  1. Establish a network for direct patient involvement
    Engage patients in sharing their comprehensive tumor profile data to expand knowledge about what therapies work, in whom, and in which types of cancer.

  2. Create a translational science network devoted exclusively to immunotherapy
    Establish a cancer immunotherapy network to discover why immunotherapy is effective in some patients but not in others.

  3. Develop ways to overcome cancer’s resistance to therapy
    Identify therapeutic targets to overcome drug resistance through studies that determine the mechanisms that lead cancer cells to become resistant to previously effective treatments.

  4. Build a national cancer data ecosystem
    Create a national ecosystem for sharing and analyzing cancer data so that researchers, clinicians and patients will be able to contribute data, which will facilitate efficient data analysis.

  5. Intensify research on the major drivers of childhood cancers
    Improve our understanding of fusion oncoproteins in pediatric cancer and use new preclinical models to develop inhibitors that target them.

  6. Minimize cancer treatment’s debilitating side effects
    Accelerate the development of guidelines for routine monitoring and management of patient-reported symptoms to minimize debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment.

  7. Expand use of proven cancer prevention and early detection strategies
    Reduce cancer risk and cancer health disparities through approaches in development, testing and broad adoption of proven prevention strategies.

  8. Mine past patient data to predict future patient outcomes
    Predict response to standard treatments through retrospective analysis of patient specimens.

  9. Develop a 3-D cancer atlas
    Create dynamic 3-D maps of human tumor evolution to document the genetic lesions and cellular interactions of each tumor as it evolves from a precancerous lesion to advanced cancer.

  10. Develop new cancer technologies
    Develop new enabling cancer technologies to characterize tumors and test therapies.

What Can We Achieve?

“Ultimately, the aim of the “moonshot” is to win the war on cancer — to get to a point in the very near future when we are managing cancer the same way we might manage any chronic disease, such as diabetes or asthma.”

The goal is to defeat cancer by developing vaccine-based immunotherapy that is tailored to individual cancer patients. It is an intentionally lofty goal set with the belief that by stretching our collective imaginations and pushing ourselves, we can achieve the seemingly impossible — after all, we’ve done it before.

The Cancer Moonshot will be an unprecedented effort and involve unprecedented collaboration and cooperation between patients, their physicians, cancer researchers, healthcare insurers, and pharmaceutical companies. The following objectives have been set to help reach this awe-inspiring inspiring goal:

  • Physicians and researchers will diagnose and sequence the DNA of 100,000 cancer patients
  • Pharmaceutical companies will share their novel drugs and research
  • Government agencies will eliminate red tape, expediting clinical trials
  • National Cancer Institute and other leading cancer centers will validate the science
  • Insurance companies will pay for treatment and share their data
  • Technology providers will develop a secure web-based portal to connect all collaborators
  • 20,000 patients will receive next-generation immunotherapy

This joint approach provides researchers with necessary testing materials and patients with more opportunities to participate through local facilities and wider insurance coverage. Oncologists receive real time trial results, and patients have hope for more positive outcomes.

While five years is a blink of an eye in the world of medical research and advancement, for those currently diagnosed with cancer, it’s an eternity. If you or someone you love has recently received a cancer diagnosis, you need answers and options today. Dr. Perez and Sierra Nevada Cancer Center are here for you. Call (775) 883-3336 to schedule an appointment at one of our four northern Nevada locations.

Cancer Moonshot 2020 Program, The National Cancer Institute, 
Kennedy Speech,


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